Tuesday 10 December 2019

Christiania in the polder

Let’s drain the Markerwaard and have a free state where people can experiment without being bogged down by rules and regulations, writes Farid Tabarki.

Freedom is relative. ‘Freetown’ brings to mind freedom, not a protracted civil war. And yet a civil war is what took place in Sierra Leone, a state founded by freed slaves. Charles Taylor, leader of neighbouring Liberia, was sentenced to fifty years for his intervention in the war, the second leader in power after Slobodan Milosovic to be indicted for war crimes. Now the country is slowly returning to freedom.

But what constitutes freedom? What does it constitute here, in the West? I was in Fristaden, or Free State, Christiania in Copenhagen last weekend. For years national laws have been treated with a fine disregard in this small self-declared republic. The enclave has its own flag: three yellow dots, one for every i in Christiania.


That flag was hoisted in 1971 and a greater contrast between the chaotic, alternative and lively atmosphere of Christiania and tidy, well-regulated Copenhagen centre can hardly be imagined. People are still smoking dope and you can buy the stuff from men in balaclavas manning camouflaged stands. It’s a jolly place and it makes you realise there’s more than the national state.

Christiania is a great place for all kinds of initiatives. It attracts lots of interesting people and every year thousands of tourists come to check out how this anarchic community has managed to survive for over forty years.

Shouldn’t we have our own Christiania, somewhere in the Netherlands? We are regulated up to the gills. We are so well-organised we may well out-organise Copenhagen.


Home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk floundered on the Noordvleugel province dossier not long ago, a missed opportunity because the future lies in the regions, not The Hague.

On March 18, 2015 we will have provincial elections. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the provincial party representatives were to rebel and demand greater autonomy? Now is the time; already the party programme writers are putting pen to paper. Surely the Groningers could be counted on to rise up against The Hague? Europe doesn’t have a Committee of the Regions for nothing.


The Catalans and the Scots are calling for independence. We did the same in the time of the Dutch Republic. ‘I have always honoured the king of Spain’ still goes the national anthem. He had to make way for a national state. Now that state is becoming more and more irrelevant.

Many decisions are now being taken in Brussels. We no longer have conscription and the guilder is a thing of the past. We can do without The Hague. With some European rules and strong regions – which also look after our coastal defences, we don’t want the country to be flooded after all – and local initiatives we would do just fine.


Let’s adopt a flexible model for our new state. Re-inventing our societal, political and economic systems is not only useful, it is necessary. According to the European Regional Competitiveness Index, Utrecht is one of the most competitive regions in Europe. This proves we can do it if we want to. It is up to the regions to make it happen.

I hope they have a ‘bureaucracy holiday’ every now and again to relieve the stress of all the rules and regulations. If not I propose to drain the Markerwaard and turn it into Free State Markerwaard, Mark for short, where experimentation will be the order of the day and freedom reigns with a minimum of interference from The Hague.

No stifling bureaucratic corsets but a re-invention of the Dutch Republic which was such a boost to the House of Orange. Willem-Alexander can be king as far as I’m concerned. He can look after the trade interests of Mark. We’ll call the capital Vrijstad.

Farid Tabarki is a trendwatcher public speaker, panel moderator and founder of Studio Zeitgeist in Amsterdam.



a trendwatcher public speaker, panel moderator and founder of Studio Zeitgeist in A – See more at: https://www.dutchnews.nl/columns/farid_tabarki/#sthash.gexPiHWz.dpuf

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